Palampur, October 20
The National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) will change the alignment of the proposed Pathankot-Mandi four-lane project to reduce the cost of land to be acquired for the project and avoid the cutting of hills. The skyrocketing price of land has forced the NHAI to review the land acquisition plans. However, the execution of the four-lane Pathankot-Mandi project will be taken up as per schedule.
As per the original plan, there was proposal to acquire land for 45-metre width of the highway under the project but because of difficult topography and sliding of hills it had become difficult to acquire this much of land. Therefore, it has now been planned to acquire land for 33-meter width highway in hilly areas while in planes the NHAI could acquire 45 meters of land depending upon its availability.
The NHAI had discontinued land acquisition process six months ago.
Official sources told The Tribune that there would be slight change in the alignment of the highway. Therefore, the land acquisition for the project was being reviewed and fresh process will begin soon. It has also been planned to utilise the old track of the highway so that maximum government land could be utilised for the project which would further reduce its cost.
“This step has been taken in the larger interest of the state to avoid environmental degradation, cutting of hills and landslides on the proposed highway. As per new plan, the NHAI will not only reduce the cost of projects but also help in saving environment. This will also ensure early completion of the project,” a senior NHAI officer stated.
Meanwhile, several environment groups have hailed the NHAI decision. Environmentalists were earlier opposing the disturbance being caused to fragile eco system. The state government had apprised the Ministry of Road and Transport last year that it had bitter experience of Kiratpur-Manali and Kalka-Shimla four-lane projects where over stretch of hills adjoining the highways have become prune to landslides because of reckless and unscientific excavation by construction companies. Besides, it has made the lives of local residents miserable. It could take years to stabilise these hills.
The Himalaya is one of the youngest mountain ranges in the world. The range is still growing, which means that because of tectonic pressure and dynamics, the mountains have not stabilised.
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